FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bad Days at Nordstroms

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

We can reckon what the White House tacticians were telling the boss earlier in the month as they gazed down the tunnel towards 2003, hoping for brighter economic prospects. No light at the end. Such grim economic tidings required a sacrifice to please the gods, so they led Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill to the vice president’s office, where Cheney axed Bono’s weeping friend on the spot.

The gods weren’t propitiated. On the front lines of capitalism here in Fortress America the news is bad. For these past three years a young Friend of CounterPunch has been a champion salesperson in the Nordstrom retail chain in the Pacific North West, selling fashionable garments to the younger crowd. This year she elected to do battle for the economy in a prime Nordstrom outlet in downtown Portland, Oregon. Her dispatches from the trenches were bleak from the start, and have been getting bleaker as the holiday season progresses. The parking lots are half empty, the consumers fretful and flighty. For the first time in her Nordstrom career she failed to meet her quotas. It was a bust.

At the other end of the country I spoke to my old friend Wilbur, car junker and owner of a small trailer park in South Carolina. “Alex,” he hollered down the phone, “this morning I went down to McDonald’s for breakfast and the place was empty. So was Hardees next door. People are scared.”

If Nordstroms and McDonalds are both doing badly, you know you’ve got problems. The signs are everywhere. Here in California, a state with an economy that ranks in the world’s top ten, the governor is facing a huge deficit in the state budget and the two major public university systems have just announced fierce fee hikes for students. 2002 saw small investors savagely reminded that Wall Street is a cruel place where minnows die. 2003 is shaping up as a year when the real meaning of recession may bite home.

Mind you, only a fool says he knows for sure which way the economy is going to jump, but we’ve had eight straight quarters of decline and the markets don’t look so good. It could be we’re headed into a double dip recession.

The Democrats have no plan and much of the time manage to stand to the right of the Republicans on matters such as balancing the budget. Amid almost weekly examples of corporate looting and executive criminality unrivaled in the fragrant history of American capitalism, the Democrats have been unable to seize the initiative, which is scarcely surprising since the party has been soundly bribed into complaisance by these same corporate criminals.

No Turkey Shoot

A flock of wild turkeys strutted into my front yard here in Humboldt county, displaying the same faulty sense of timing that brought their forebears to this same yard three years ago on the eve of Thanksgiving. They like to jump up and down under my holly tree trying to get what berries have been spared by the robins. Talk about a turkey shoot! This could have been Ground Zero for Meleagris gallopavo but as I was leveling my 12-gauge I remembered I was scheduled to pick up a 24-lb turkey raised by a 4-H kid in Hydesville which I bought at the Humboldt county fair, plus my yearly batch of two dozen pheasants from a friend in Rohnerville. How much poultry can a man, even a CounterPuncher, have in the freezer?

Also the wild turkeys looked a bit bedraggled, as well they might, considering they’d been weathering some of the worst storms ever seen on our storm-lashed chunk of coastline below Cape Mendocino. We’ve been without power for a week now, the exclusive print edition of CounterPunch (yes, subscribe NOW, and it’s NOT TOO LATE to buy your friends their subs for Christmas) coaxed into life between Petrolia and Jeffrey St Clair’s bunker in Oregon City with the help of my Onan generator (yes, that’s its name, one to conjure within the generator business) then sent on its way via email to our printer in Skokie, Illinois.

Not like the old days, I told our youthful business manager Becky Grant and our friend Scott Handleman and then held forth to them on the production of newsletters and kindred radical periodicals back in the Sixties.

As the storm winds rattled the window panes and the lamps guttered low, warming the room to the tints of a LaTour painting, and as Becky’s youngest, Oliver, gamboled with Jasper the Wonderdog I sang of the ancient days of 7 Days, a weekly I was involved with at the end of the Sixties in London. There were about 20 people in the collective, with all decisions, down to the refinenements of punctuation and the proper use of the semi-colon, settled by debate and democratic vote, 50 per cent men, 50 per cent women. Democracy at that level is very tiring.

Late one night as I labored over the photographs with our design team I heard a crackling on the aged stairs of the old building on Shavers Place, a hundred yards from Piccadilly Circus, where we were perched on the top floor. I pulled open the door, to be confronted by a sheet of flame. It later turned out that some group of Ulster-based Orangemen had taken exception to our measured posture on the Irish question and had decided to torch the building.

We decided to abandon ship. Carrying boxes of valuable prints from Magnum we walked the narrow catwalk that led to the next building, and kicked in the window. There was a screech of alarm as a couple of Palestinians who were working late on their magazine saw the window burst in and thought the Israeli commandos were about to follow. By dawn we had the pages made up and then it was a rush to the train station, then an hour down to the printers. So different now; so much easier, so much cheaper. Who says there isn’t progress in human affairs, though I do miss the inky excitement of those old hot type days.

Out of my yard strutted Meleagris gallopavo, spared for the nonce. I’ll be brining the 24-pounder for 24 hours and then maybe spit roasting the portly bird.

 

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail